Just released! Rabbi Noah Weinberg’s 48 Ways to Wisdom. Click here to order.
Too many people today are living an illusion. They'll escape into the fabricated world of a movie, or into a virtual reality experience.
But isn't the most beautiful reality the one that's real? Isn't it better to see a fantastic sunset than watch it in a movie? To experience the thrill of adventure rather than simulate it in an amusement park? To achieve greatness rather than hallucinate you're Cleopatra?
Everyone has a sneaking suspicion there's something truly breathtaking about life.
So why are so many people miserable? Because they're not focused on reality. A person can create the impression that his act is together, though in reality he's deluding himself. Reality itself is absolute. At any moment, it's either night or day. You can sleep through reality, and choose not relate to it. But that's still what it is.
Way #41 is ma'amido al ha'emet – literally "set him into truth." Don't live a life of illusions. Get into reality. It's the real thing.
You Can Find Truth
There are many different theories on "the purpose of life." This indicates how easy it is to delude oneself. You have to know what your "purpose of life" is based on. Intelligent decisions are built on evidence. What is the source of your information? What is your evidence?
Two people can be neighbors for years, play golf together, share barbecue dinners, and consider themselves the best of friends. They only argue over one issue: God. The most fundamental issue of life – which colors our thinking on virtually everything – and these two can't even agree if He exists!
"Co-existence" is not the same as living in the same reality. So who's reality is true?
Become a truth seeker. Be ambitious to know what life is really about. Constantly look for evidence to either substantiate – or contradict – your ideas. Always be open to new information that will enable you to hone your understanding of the truth.
Know the Evidence
In our generation, people often don't bother seeking truth, because they don't believe it exists. "Everyone is right. It's one opinion against the other." So we accept living in confusion. People are even afraid to debate deep issues because they say, "You're going to brainwash me. I won't be able to determine if what you're saying is right or wrong."
Fight this insanity in yourself and others. We need to have confidence that truth exists and it can be found. That's the starting point for all reality.
Gain confidence in your ability to distinguish right from wrong. For example, you know you have 10 fingers. But what if somebody says you've got 74 fingers. What's your proof that they're wrong?
The sum total of all your senses and prior experiences says you've got 10 fingers. It is an unshakable conviction.
Now let's try a more difficult example. Is it more important to be happy or to be rich? Most people will say "happy." And what if somebody says, "It's alright to be miserable and isolated, as long as you've got loads of money!" Who's right and who's wrong? Do you know?
What if you were born in Germany and they said, "Kill all the Jews, the plague of mankind." When they put you on trial for war crimes, why can't you claim innocence, that your opinion is as valid as any other? Because we know that certain things are objectively wrong. And every human being has the responsibility to know that reality.
Get clear on the evidence for your out¬look. It'll keep you from being dragged around by passing fads… or worse.
Reality is largely a function of attitude.
Imagine a young woman flying from Chicago to attend a friend's wedding in New York. She has a beautiful gown, custom-made especially for the occasion. Then, just before leaving her hotel for the wedding, a clumsy bellhop spills a tray of room service all over her dress. Catastrophe!
Instantly, her mind races through all the possibilities: look for an emergency dry cleaner, try to borrow another dress, or simply skip the wedding. She's got to make a decision!
She concludes that the best option is to go to the wedding with a dirty dress. This triggers another whole series of decisions, because when someone asks, "Why is your dress all dirty," what will she answer? She can simply say, "It doesn't really matter, the important thing is that I'm here to enjoy my friend's wedding." Or she can say, "poor me" – and spend the whole evening commiserating exactly how it happened and how she is crestfallen and what a disaster it is!
If you decide: "The world's a mess and it's a drag to be here," then that's how you'll live. If you decide: "Life is good and it's a pleasure to be here," that's how you'll live.
If it's good to be alive, you need to know: What's good about it?
Frequently, the real problem is that a person doesn't know what he wants. If you don't know what you want, you can't drive full force to get it.
Once you know what you're living for, there's no holding you back. You'll jump out of bed every morning with childlike wonderment at life's great thrill.
If there's ugliness in the world, you have two choices: either complain, or clean it up. It's all in the attitude. Don't sit there and say "I wish the world was different." The beauty of life is that you can change the ugliness. You have the potential – if you choose to use it. There are always 10 different ways to go. Life is your decision. Nobody else does it for you. So ask: Am I using my potential? Why not? What's holding me back?
Judaism says that ignorance is the most terrible, painful, destructive disease of all. People may even commit suicide out of ignorance. They lose money in the stock market and suddenly feel that life is no longer worth living. What happened? They severed their connection with reality.
"Sanity" means more than just not getting locked away in an insane asylum. Sanity clears your mind of fuzziness and allows you to see the beauty of creation. Sanity is energizing, expansive, awesome.
Insanity is contagious. Imagine we lock you up in an asylum where everyone sees snakes crawling on the walls. After six months, it's almost guaranteed you'll believe there's snakes on the walls.
People accept the most ridiculous things because everyone else accepts it. Fashion trends and mass marketing operate on this principle.
What's the best way to survive an insane asylum? Cure your fellow inmates. Otherwise you're bound to be influenced by them.
Look for the Root
We've all tried to help someone with a problem – a friend, a roommate, a colleague, a cousin. The guy is all muddled and depressed – "I'm no good, I'm weak, I'm nothing." You support him, cheer him up, get him ready to tackle life, and then... he's down again the next morning.
The problem is you did not set him firmly into reality. You did a patch job – and the patch came off.
To align someone with reality, don't just look for cosmetic solutions. Get to the root of the problem. Find the gap in knowl¬edge which leads to the negative action. What is the core issue holding him back? Look for the single strategic move that will turn him around, release his potential, and get him moving in the right direction. This will make your solutions more effective and permanent.
Imagine the father of a teenager, frustrated that his son is not listening to parental advice. There is constant tension and fighting. What's the solution? Get the father to realize a basic principle: "You can never tell anyone what to do. You can only show him why it's meaningful and to his benefit." This helps the father reframe his approach.
And how do you reframe the son, who's convinced that his father hates him? Focus him on the following case:
You're travelling through Europe, get hit by a car and wind up in the hospital. Who's going to travel 5,000 miles to see that you get the best treatment? You know who will come – your father. Yet you say he hates you!
Focus his attention: His parents are totally devoted to him and can't possibly hate him. You've now given him clarity. At least until the next time his father calls him a dumbbell…
Personalized Problem Solving
Realize there are no "pat" solutions. Just as every person is unique in appearance, so too everyone has different motivations and needs. One person may be driven by idealism, another needs security, another wants material possessions, another is in pursuit of honor. So even if you've found one solution, it may not be universally applicable.
(On the other hand, there are certain universal drives: the desire to be good, to actualize potential, to help others, etc.)
The best solution to a problem is the one that someone comes up with on their own. Because when someone understands the obstacles that interfere with their own fulfillment, they'll devote themselves more fully to that solution.
Setting a person on the straight course doesn't mean being a "solution-wiz" dispensing answers. It means being a facilitator, showing others their mistakes, and guiding their personal exploration of correct solutions.
Don't forget to tackle your own problems. Because in order to get someone else into reality, you first have to understand it yourself. So strive to resolve your own issues, to free yourself to look beyond the little box. And the more "perfect" you become, the better leader you become for others.
In some instances, however, if you do hit an impasse with yourself, one way out is to try solving other people's problems. With yourself, you're all boxed up. With others, you're more objective. So once you experience success in external problem-solving, you can then apply it to yourself.
God and the Jews
You're walking down the street and see a child running into traffic to chase his ball. A car screeches to a halt. The driver yells from his window about the child's foolishness. Some of the bystanders shake their head, others wag an accusing finger in his direction. But one person runs after the kid, chases him five blocks, grabs him, and smacks him across the behind. Who is that man? His father. everyone else says, "He's going to get himself killed one day, what a pity." But only the father cares enough to make sure he's scared stiff not to do something like that again.
God cares about the Jewish people more than any parent cares about his child. The Jewish people are the transmitters of Torah values and God will not allow us to disappear. That's why He has to keep us set into reality. Even if we say, "We don't care about being Jewish, we want to assimilate." The Almighty says: "No way. I have a deal with Abraham and you are too precious to get lost. If I have to teach you the difference, you'll learn."
God never "punishes." It is always instructive, setting us on the path of reality.
Furthermore, the Almighty does not take revenge on His children. Imagine if your son was doing awful things, putting his life in danger and causing you terrible suffering. Then one day he comes back and says, "Dad, I'm sorry. I made a lot of bad mistakes. Please forgive me." Now what are you going to say – wait, I've got to get some blood out of you? Or will you break down crying, hug him and celebrate.
A parent doesn't take revenge on a child. That's the principle of our Father in Heaven.
Why is "Getting Into Reality" a Way to Wisdom?
- Never stop asking: Is it good to be alive? What am I living for?
- We need to be good. Helping others straighten out their lives is not just part of living; it's what living is about.
- Get to the root of the problem. Cut it out and release the latent potential.
- Ask yourself: "Do I really want to live in reality?"
- Make decisions about the wisdom you learn: "Am I going to live with it, or ignore it?"
- Live in the real world. It will make you yearn for sanity.
Just released! Rabbi Noach Weinberg’s 48 Ways to Wisdom. Click here to order.